View Full Version : Hardwood Comparisons

07-26-2014, 12:26 PM
Came across this series on YouTube. Perhaps of use. Yes, guitars are discussed, but I appreciated the descriptions of the tonewoods!


If anyone has anything better/complimentary/additional it'd be awesome.

07-26-2014, 12:34 PM
Complimentary: http://tonewooddatasource.weebly.com/index.html

chuck in ny
07-27-2014, 04:12 AM
anyone care to chat about north american tonewood i would be interested. as a mahogany guy it seems like walnut is in that sound family, but i haven't heard enough walnut instruments or played one, this, along with the half dozen other native woods. i could wind up staying a lonely mahogany guy too. there are worse fates.

Jim Hanks
07-27-2014, 07:35 AM
anyone care to chat about north american tonewood i would be interested.
I'm game. I am in the pipeline for two builds, one with mostly east coast woods including walnut, and one with west coast woods like myrtle. The thing is I haven't seen or heard any of this in person so its a bit of a gamble on each. I'm just putting my trust in the builders to turn out something I'll be happy with.

chuck in ny
07-27-2014, 07:43 AM

wood species is the ultimate nitpick. i'm sure you picked your builders with good judgment. in the end it's how much put up they have, how they select wood, how they build. bit i have heard in walnut and myrtle you should receive sweet sounding instruments.

07-27-2014, 09:54 AM
Interesting video sequence. His explanation of Quilted Maple is consistent somewhat with my experience, but I wouldn't use "bass response" as a description. Place a quilted and curly next to each other, same builder, yes, you can probably tell the different, but they're so close.

Because Jim mentioned Myrtle, I read what the tonewood source had to say about it. His experience is not mine. I've done 2 spalted Myrtle, and will not do another. On the other hand, Myrtle with Spruce is right in between Maple and Milo, imhe. Its a cheap wood with very good tonal qualities. Some say its good for recording, and I can understand that. Very easy wood to work with, too bad not a whole lot of people appreciate `ukulele with their ears, otherwise there'd be whole lot of these on the market, at a reasonable price.

07-27-2014, 08:33 PM
I posted this a long time ago... long time... I don't remember when, actually. I'll add this to Ukulele Player Magazine on the new website.

What tone, over all, do I want? A rosewood back and sides will have better low and mid-range tone than a mahogany uke. Spruce will be brighter than mahogany and will not mellow as much as cedar with age. Cedar will sound bright at first and just continue to get more mellow and sweeter with age. Then there are the exotic woods, starting with koa, very punchy with clear tone. Mango is softer and sweet, but it doesn't carry as well as koa. Zebrawood, pretty new on the market is bright, but it is a thinner tone than any of the others mentioned thus far. Maple is bright and combined with a spruce top will be one of the loudest ukes you can ever find, yet played softly, it can be about as sweet and mellow as any instrument. Maple is usually laminated, so the solid spruce top is important.

The "sound" changes with the combinations of wood, the bracing, the body size and shape, and variables in construction. Many companies have different sounds on different instruments depending on the choice of woods used. So, here is a basic rundown...

bright sound.... maple back and sides, spruce top (very loud).
fairly bright sound, warms with age.... solid mahogany
warm sound, warms slightly with age, not as loud as koa.... mango
bright sound, can give a pronounced "bark" with warm tone, yet very loud.... solid koa
warm sound with a sweet tone that gets sweeter with age.... mahogany back with cedar top
bright, yet warm sound that will mellow with age, but remain loud.... mahogany with spruce top
warm sound, middle-volume, with smooth sweet tone.... koa back and sides with a cedar top
warm, rich sound with good midrange and lower registers... rosewood back and sides, cedar top
warm, rich sound with brighter highs and good volume.... rosewood back and sides with spruce top

less common woods...
myrtle... bright, mid-range tone with good balance
zebrawood... chipper, bright tone, average volume (add a spruce top for increased volume)
monkeypod... sounds similar to Koa, not as pretty, but nice straight grain
blackwood... nice grain, sounds a lot like koa, warms with age
walnut... bright, loud, not commonly used in ukes... used a lot in hammer dulcimers.
sycamore... bright, mid-volume, but soft
redwood... very soft, but warm tone

I hope this helps answer questions about tone.